Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1901-1977) Russian-born Jewish author, Herberg never completed an academic degree in course. He received three honorary doctorates, the first in 1956; Graduate Professor, Drew University, 1956-1974.

Herberg's early work and writing was associated with the far left of the American labor movement, but he later came to reject the Marxist program, particularly as a result of reading the work of Reinhold Niebuhr. Convinced of the essential sinfulness of human nature, Herberg turned toward theology and published his first major work, Judaism and Modern Man in 1951 (Farrar Straus).

Herberg made his lasting mark on the study of American religion and society, however, with the publication of Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology in 1955 (Doubleday). The thesis of this work was that waves of immigrants to the United States became integrated into a larger societal community, "the American Way of Life," that provided an overarching value system of which the three principal religions had become subdivisions, distinguishing among but not dividing a common core rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage. Protestant-Catholic-Jew laid much of the intellectual groundwork for the introduction of the "civil religion" thesis a decade later.

Herberg's later works reflect a continued interest in both religion and in labor, but in the latter case, he adopted the position of a staunch anticommunist, basing his labor theory on a combination of a relatively conservative biblicalism as well as more conservative political economics.

See also American Religion, Andrew M. Greeley

William H. Swatos, Jr .


H. J. Ausmus, Will Herberg (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1986).

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